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Friday, June 23, 2017

Too Connected to Everything

Every so often, I travel to a place where cell phone and Internet service is limited or nonexistent.

After a few days of feeling somewhat lost without instant text messaging, e-mail and Web access, life returns to the way it used to be, before electronic communications took over. And that, I have learned, is a good thing. 

Being device-free definitely lessens the stress I feel. No longer am I bombarded with the latest bad and sad news from around the world. No longer am I faced with a never-ending barrage of pleas for donations to 'go fund me' pages and charitable organizations. No longer do I feel a need to keep up to date with everything. A self-confessed news junkie (most of my professional life was spent working with the news media), I like to feel 'in the know' at all times. But having no or limited access to the news is a very freeing feeling. Whatever happens will happen whether I am aware of it or not. And there is little, if anything, I can do about whatever happens.

Lately I have been really frustrated by my electronic world. First, it's the passwords. I'm told not to use the same password for more than one account. Don't write passwords down. Be sure not to use anything that is easy to guess. And make it a combination of numbers and letters. Of course, this is impossible for me. I have far too many accounts to keep track of every password in my head, especially for accounts I seldom use. I constantly have to hit the 'forgot password' button and create yet another password that I will forget the next time I need it.

My Dell laptop, which is probably 5 years old, is frustratingly slow. Sometimes it freezes and the cursor won't move. This requires unplugging the device, turning it over and removing the battery, then restarting it and waiting forever for the browser to load.

This week I decided to dump my expensive DirecTv service, which claims to have 150 channels. In reality, half of them are nothing but infomercials for some vacuum cleaner, copper cooking pans or 'best sex ever.' One of my favorites (I saw it in the channel lineup but didn't look at it) was "Do you poop enough?" And I'm paying how much every month for this nonsense?

So I purchased an Amazon Fire TV stick that allows me to stream a variety of channels without the need for cable or satellite television. I'm still getting used to it, as I have had cable of satellite television for decades. But I'm sure that after a while it will seem normal to me. Of course, then I had to call DirecTv to cancel service. As expected, I got the usual high pressure sell of why don't I block the infomercials (I would still be paying for them), why don't I use DirecTv streaming, etc. I finally told the woman to stop arguing with me and just cancel the service. Naturally, I'm getting hit with a $240 'early termination' fee, but that's still considerably less than I would pay if I kept the service for another year. So goodbye, DirecTv!

Technology does have a good side, of course. I like being able to use my cell phone to call for roadside assistance if my car gets a flat tire. I like being able to get directions with a simple click or two. I love being able to compare prices and to order things online, and to use a small e-reader to carry 30 books with me when I travel. I can share photographs from my trips, and technology allows me to write and share this blog. My car has a navigation system that gets me to my destination, if not always the best route to take.

I remember spending hours in the college library doing research, and hoping that the books I needed hadn't been checked out by another student. I remember struggling with a paper map or road atlas to find my destination. Now I can do research online.

 I guess it's too late to disconnect completely. That would be a very difficult step to take, and it would present issues of its own (online banking is a real convenience).

Still, I am looking forward to my next trip and the escape from technology it will offer.